'Visible deterioration of democracy': US joins annual list of 'backsliding' democracies

WION Web Team
Stockholm, Sweden Published: Nov 22, 2021, 08:38 AM(IST)

Nations of the world (Representational Image) Photograph:( Others )

Story highlights

In 2020, countries edging towards authoritarian outnumbered those enjoying democratisation for the fifth consecutive year

Adding the United States to its annual list of "backsliding" democracies, the International think tank International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) on Monday, cited a "visible deterioration" it said began in 2019.

"This year we coded the United States as backsliding for the first time, but our data suggest that the backsliding episode began at least in 2019," it said in its report titled "Global State of Democracy 2021".

"A historic turning point came in 2020–21 when former president Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results in the United States," the report noted.

Also read | Biden defines his underlying challenge with China: ‘Prove democracy works’

Globally, over one in four people live in backsliding democracies, a figure that grows to two out of three with the addition of authoritarian or "hybrid" regimes.

"The United States is a high-performing democracy, and even improved its performance in indicators of impartial administration (corruption and predictable enforcement) in 2020. However, the declines in civil liberties and checks on government indicate that there are serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy," Alexander Hudson, a co-author of the report.

Hudson also noted a deterioration in the quality of freedom of association and assembly after the police killing of George Floyd.

In its assessments, International IDEA draws on 50 years of democratic indicators from around 160 countries, categorising them as democracies (including those that are "backsliding"), hybrid governments, and authoritarian regimes.

'Runaway polarisation' 

"The visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation (in elections), and the runaway polarisation... is one of the most concerning developments," said International IDEA secretary-general Kevin Casas-Zamora.

He warned of a knock-on effect, noting: "The violent contestation of the 2020 election without any evidence of fraud has been replicated, in different ways, in places as diverse as Myanmar, Peru and Israel."

Also read | AUKUS: US, Australia, UK sign key deal in nuclear submarine alliance

In the past decade, the number of backsliding democracies has doubled, making up a quarter of the world's population. Aside from "established democracies" like the US, the list also includes EU member states of Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. 

As Myanmar transitioned from democracy to authoritarianism, Afghanistan and Mali also moved from hybrid governments to this category.

Turning authoritarian 

In 2020, countries edging towards authoritarian outnumbered those enjoying democratisation for the fifth consecutive year.

This trend is expected to continue in 2021, according to International IDEA.

As of 2021, the world will have 98 democracies, the lowest number in many years, as well as 20 "hybrid" governments including Russia, Morocco and Turkey, and 47 authoritarian regimes including China, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Iran.

When backslidden democracies are added to hybrid and authoritarian states, we are talking about 70 percent of the world's population, says Casas-Zamora.

Also read | US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland declares word 'squaw' as derogatory term

"That tells you that there is something fundamentally serious happening with the quality of democracy," he added.

Reports said there has been an escalation in democratic erosion since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Some countries, particularly Hungary, India, the Philippines and the USA, have (imposed) measures that amount to democratic violations -- that is, measures that were disproportionate, illegal, indefinite or unconnected to the nature of the emergency," the report said.

"The pandemic has certainly accelerated and magnified some of the negative trends, particularly in places where democracy and the rule of law were ailing before the pandemic," Casas-Zamora said.

(With inputs from agencies)

Read in App